Stress, Anxiety, Depression and PEMF
BY JONATHAN BOWEN
Mental Health: What is Stress?
One of the biggest challenges we face today is stress. Stress is psychological pain caused by strain and pressure in life. Stress can be beneficial when it encourages healthy behaviour in athletic performance; it can be motivational. It can be a defence mechanism that triggers a “fight or flight” response.
When the body is under stress, the brain is triggered to administer adrenalin into the blood along with sugars the body has stored so that the muscles can be energized for immediate action. Some organs will slow down, and blood will be retracted from the stomach, so it can be used elsewhere. This will sometimes create a feeling of nausea as the body needs to re-appropriate its resources, and therefore, it may vomit the contents of the stomach to use the blood for more immediate needs.
However, excessive stress can lead to bodily harm, especially when there appears to be “no way out” of a situation. Stress causes reactions in the body such as an increased heart rate, sweating, clammy feeling, increased breathing, and over time it can lead to anxiety attacks, heart disease and diabetes. Stress has also been linked to fatigue, immune problems, anxiety and depression. It is estimated that stress is responsible for 70% of the problems doctors have to deal with.
Stress can also trigger unhealthy behaviour used by people to cope with stress. This can include overeating or eating foods that trigger brain chemistry that is temporarily calming (i.e. comfort foods, junk foods). People also turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the pressure. Many drugs are prescribed by physicians and can lead to addiction.
Some of the other side effects of stress are insomnia, irritability, headaches, high blood pressure (hypertension), an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), fatigue, asthma, rashes, hyper-ventilation, and a host of other issues.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Anxiety is a state of constant worry about potential stresses, real or perceived, which can bring on physical symptoms. Anxiety can become long-lasting, which is termed a generalized anxiety disorder. In addition, different phobias can develop which lead to panic disorders.
According to author Dr. Joseph Mercola in his book What Anxiety Does to Your Brain and What You Can Do About It, anxiety is a healthy and natural response which can become unhealthy if overstimulated:
Anxiety is a natural, normal response to potential threats, which puts your body into a heightened state of awareness. When felt appropriately, anxiety is beneficial and can keep you out of harm’s way… the anxiety you may feel while hiking near a steep drop-off, for instance, will cause you to be more careful and purposeful in your movements.
For an estimated 40 million US adults, however, anxiety may occur even when there’s no real threat, causing unnecessary stress and emotional pain. While many believe anxiety and stress to be the same, persistent anxiety actually evokes quite a different experience in your brain. (1)
Anxiety is a defensive mechanism that is designed to trigger hormones to heighten reflexes, raise the heart rate, and increase circulation to allow you to respond more quickly. Anxiety is usually the result of fear from internal thought mechanisms. The National Institute of Mental Health describes some of the mechanisms involved in anxiety:
“Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety… scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response. The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders, or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories.” (2)
Sometimes the things worried about are real and sometimes trivial, but the anxiety experienced can be all-consuming and affect one’s quality of life.
Major symptoms include:
Dysphoria (a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction)
Sleep disturbances (falling or staying asleep or not being satisfied by sleep)
Problems with Concentration and “going blank.”
The condition is not to be taken lightly. Anxiety disorders can affect all ages and walks of life.
Anxiety can come from an unhealthy response when there is no real threat
Depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness, loss of motivation and possibly suicide.
Mental Health: What is Depression
If untreated, anxiety can lead to severe depression, which may result in loss of interest in life, loss of appetite, loss of self-esteem, and even suicide. Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and sense of well-being. Depressed people can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, alone, irritable, hurt, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions as though in a brain fog. Other symptoms include insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches and pains, digestive problems, or reduced energy may occur.
Depression can result from a feeling of hopelessness or “no way out” in dealing with anxiety and stress. Depression results in a loss of motivation, very low energy, and a sense of giving up. Consequently, those who experience depression may also contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide.
Over the past while, the issues of anxiety and depression have become headlines in the media with the tragic, high-profile suicides of seemingly successful people such as the chef Anthony Bourdain, designer Kate Spade and actor Robin Williams. However, PEMF can help with the issues of depression and anxiety by normalizing brain function.
Traditional Treatment for Mental Health
Therapy for stress, anxiety and depression
Traditionally therapy is employed when treating depression, anxiety and stress. There are many individual and group therapies, mostly aimed at teaching the individual to confront their fears as a coping mechanism. These require a significant time commitment, and it may take several rounds to focus on the most effective area. However, not all causes are phycological, and even ones that still involve the chemistry of the brain.
Medication for stress, anxiety and depression
Therefore, medications are employed to treat mental health and normalize the brain's chemistry. Myriads of drugs are manufactured to alter the chemistry of the brain to treat anxiety and stress.
Some medications are designed to block the reabsorption of serotonin to improve mood. However, the side effects include insomnia or sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, stomach upset, headaches, increased blood pressure, etc.. In addition, anxiety can be a side effect and can mitigate the benefit of the medication.
Other medications such as Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, valium and lorazepam) are designed to promote calming and relaxation, plus reduce physical symptoms of anxiety such as muscle tension. These drugs work on the brain the same way opioids such as heroin and cannabinoids such as cannabis do by turning on the dopamine hormone in the brain. However, many of these are not tolerated well and will lead to dependence.
Due to the problems with the Benzodiazepines, other antidepressants are used, which include the tricyclic family. These side effects include dropping in blood pressure when standing up (orthostatic hypotension), constipation, urinary retention, dry mouth, and blurry vision.
Many medical solutions only add to the anxiety of the person suffering. Therefore, we would like to take a moment to consider how PEMF can help with stress, anxiety and depression.